Archive for the 'Mammals' Category

02
Jun
21

Whale Whispering

Just finished the penultimate day of our UK mammal tour. We went whale whispering to the East of the Isle of Staffa. Managed to call up three separate Minkes feeding in what was obviously a food rich area.

30
May
21

Hares

Some cracking numbers of Hares around the Norfolk fields at the moment. At Kelling the other week we saw around 20 in one field.

17
Apr
21

Bones of contention

I’ve been trying desperately to complete the final part of research for my book: ‘Cetaceans of Norfolk’. I’m now coming to the conclusion of writing up notes into a coherent volume which has taken me the best part of 9 years to complete.

I have been visiting quite a few parts of Norfolk over the last few days, some of which I’d not visited before, to photograph and measure whale bones. Some bones were used as arches some as fenders and others as fence or gateposts. Given whale bones are loaded with oil they last a long time; several hundred years longer than wood when partly buried in the earth. Given this is a resource that is no longer available the county has a decreasing number on show but there are still a few scattered through the county in gardens and farms. They are part of our heritage. I feel they needed to be audited and recorded, so as part of the book there’s a chapter dedicated to whale bones within the county.

I visited one rather remote farm yesterday. On the approach track was a large display of Primroses the like of which I have never seen before. I’d spoken to the lady occupier on the telephone so she was expecting me when I visited. I was quite taken a back as to how derelict the farm looked. The lady was extremely old and her health had obviously suffered of late. However, she was helpful in guiding me through the very overgrown garden to where the bones lay flat among the brambles. I took photographs, measurements, thanked the lady and left.

When I was little we had two farms in the family. I know how much effort is needed to upkeep farm land and farm buildings. It saddened me greatly that such a wonderful lady was living in what could be described as a near dilapidated house and garden. I guess it was the contrast between the beauty of the approach track and the semi derelict farm buildings and garden that took me by surprise. As I sat in the car writing up my notes, I felt quite sad that poor health and circumstance was limiting what the lady could do to upkeep what had obviously been at one time a thriving, living farm. However, I looked up and a face at one of the windows of an outbuilding brought a smile to my face.

04
Feb
21

A walk to the Sea

The sea was full this morning; overflowing at the edges and pushing at the base of the cliffs. No wind so no waves but the swell was well over 2m. I had hoped a cetacean or two may break the surface but only a couple of Grey Seals put in an appearance.

Skylarks gave a backing to the percussion of Great Tits as I arrived at the cliff top. Plenty of Red-throated Divers still and the odd Brent moving West and then presumably back North; even a Great crested Grebe was on the sea evading the attentions of fish stealing gulls. However, there were a few new kids on the block. The Fulmars were back. On the cliffs, on the sea and gliding effortlessly by. Spring is around the corner.

05
Jan
21

Reminiscing

Over the New Year period, being in Tier 4 Norfolk and therefore restricted to home has given me time to think and reminisce.

I have been following the reports of Fin and Humpback Whales around the Isles of Scilly this last week with interest. I would so like to have been there. Sightings of whales were coming in thick and fast. It’s difficult to tell how many of each species were present but on one particular day there appeared to be nine animals around the islands. This is purely speculative on my part of course as some of the sightings may have been double counted and remember I am 400 miles away. In time when records are examined by the more than competent guys on the ground a truer number will be agreed.

The whole event took me back to some occasions in the past when I’ve been surrounded by whales myself. One came to mind. In the bay of Funday 2016 I remember thinking I could have walked out on the Humpbacks that were gathering in the mist around the boat. Later on in the same week a pod of Fin Whales came at the boat. Let’s just think about that for a moment. Each whale around 20 meters long and weighing about 47,000 kg. moving at 20 knots, making a bow wave and coming straight towards where I’m stood on the deck of a 60 foot cruiser one and a half metres above the waterline. There were around ten of them. That’s close to half a million kilograms of flesh coming straight at the boat. You get the picture. As they neared the beam they slipped under the keel and were away. Their wash dragging the boat sideways. A heart stopping moment. Wonderful, wonderful animals.

Some of the Fin Whales in the bay of Fundy – that’s the problem with telephoto lenses … they don’t fit everything in.

Humpbacks in the mist bay of Fundy

31
Dec
20

Goodbye 2020

It’s always difficult to give the best wildlife moment of any year. Usually because there are so many to choose from. 2020 has been made no less easy due to there being less travel and fewer occasions when wildlife has presented itself. A pauper’s choice? Maybe, but we forged a few worthwhile memories.

The year opened with a Black necked Grebe within photographing distance at Holkham. The only one we saw all year. The Eastern Yellow Wagtail continued to present itself on an inland muck pile throughout January and was more photographable for the habituality developed by the proximity to its steady stream of admirers.

Ever since a raw February day in 1991, almost 30 years ago, when I first distantly saw an American Bittern in a ditch on the outskirts of Blackpool, I have dreamed of finding my own. I’d have preferred finding it at Cley or Titchwell but I guess the Everglades will have to do. We watched an individual as it stalked its way through a reedbed in Florida. The best thing about it was it was close. So close we could have touched it. My guests always say to me the best things they see when they are out with me are the birds and animals they see well. They are right.

Many other delights presented themselves in Florida and a small selection of photographs is included here.

As the year went on a few good birds presented themselves in Spring. Perhaps the pick of them was the Blyth’s Reed Warblers splattered about the East coast. We were lucky to have very good views of one in North Walsham.

Heath Fritillary Butterflies and White legged Damselflies to the South in June were a welcome break from local walks here in West Runton.

In July I saw my first comet with a tail. I couldn’t get enough of it. Another wonder of the natural world marked off the bucket list.

Southern Migrant Hawkers in West Norfolk gave me a good opportunity to study the species. We stopped and watched them for a full day. I’m sure they will become more frequent in future but getting so close to them at Thompson Common will live long in the memory.

It took two trips north to see the Lammergeier. I was pleased to see it despite not getting the front row stall seat views others obtained, but that didn’t make it any the less exciting. I hope to see more Bearded Vultures within Spain during 2022.

Silver spotted Skippers and Adonis Blues were on the menu in high summer and as October dawned a Hoopoe gave excellent views, again on an inland muck-pile, in Norfolk. Can you see a trend developing here?

On Scillies this year, as always, it was a treat; but one bird stands out for me as being particularly close and obliging. It’s not rare, but still special to see on this side of the Atlantic. A Pec Sand on Tresco gave itself to us. It has been a few years since I’ve had one that has been so confiding.

A ‘first’ is always memorable and in October, between tours, an Eastern Rufous Bush-Chat made landfall on a muddy saltmarsh a few miles down the road. We watched it along with others as it fed and spread its tail within the suaeda. Much more satisfying however was the Pallas’ Warbler not but a few hundred metres away that picked insects from the underside of sycamore leaves like a miniature trapezist right in front of our faces.

November was all local. A corking Desert Wheatear and a Lesser Yellowlegs that had no fear were both within walking distance of one another. It looks like the opening months of 2021 will also need to be local. However this wont be forever.

I’m looking forward to what 2021 will bring.

25
Dec
20

2020 – my best year yet.

I’ve been receiving cards over Christmas from family, friends, neighbours and customers and they all have had something in common. The wording has been different in each, but the sentiment has been the same … ‘better year in 2021’ … ‘hopeful for change’ … ‘can’t wait until restrictions eased’. You get the drift.

Well, Tania and I must have been on a different planet. We’ve had a great year.

We went on holiday to Florida, we got married, we’ve had the longest honeymoon in history and Tania got a visa to stay and work in the UK and got a Job in the middle of a pandemic. What’s to hate?

Sure, to be wrapped up in ourselves and completely insulated to the misery that is cruelly thwarting the world would be wrong. However, we have managed by careful and thoughtful practice to avoid crowds, be mindful of others and from day one wore gloves and masks when shopping and stayed at home when appropriate. These are OUR rules, not those of some twat in Westminster that can’t even comb his hair. We haven’t extended our liabilities up to the limits of recommendations. We’ve always worked within them. Long before Christmas restrictions my daughter and I decided that she wouldn’t join us this year. Because it was the sensible thing to do. Distance. Distance. Distance. If anyone decided otherwise then they are doomed to disappointment.

So, the best moment of 2020? There have been a few. I’ll cover some in a future post but one moment springs to mind where we shared an evening with a calling Barred Owl. Disappointingly it never did emerge from its hole in a large tree. We were within Mahogany Hammock in the Everglades. As darkness crept through the trees and shapes turned into imaginations a lightshow emerged. A million diamonds flashing in the dark. Fireflies, here there and everywhere. It was like being in a scene from Avatar. I was spellbound.

In reality, the best part of the year has to be spending so much time with Tani. I would guess you would think I have to say that, but to be honest who could not think the world of someone who takes with her a bit of grated cheese or muesli every morning. Just to feed the Robin that greets her in the dark on the platform of West Runton Station. A little Antipodean with a big heart.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

07
Dec
20

A Good Feed

A turnstone is not an unusual site here in North Norfolk. However a Turnstone feeding on a Sperm Whale is quite a unique site. The 13.9m sub adult male washed up last week at Weybourne and immediately formed a dining table for several species of birds.

27
Sep
20

Acorn hoover

Another photography tour the other day. They are getting quite popular. We stood quietly under a tree and watched this female Fallow Deer. Unusually she forsook her young and made her way towards us. It took me a while to see why she was doing this. She was eating something off the ground under the oaks. Acorns must taste really good.

19
Sep
20

EXPLOITATION

THIS HAS TO STOP. A couple of days on a 10 mile stretch of the Yorkshire coast gave an indication of the fish stocks offshore; Red throated Divers in their hundreds; one flock alone of 50 flew past us. Bottlenose Dolphins, a good sized pod of Harbour Porpoise and 10 Minke Whales feeding offshore. Crab pots littered about the sea in their hundreds (we counted 260 from one viewpoint alone) and the ominous shape of Supertrawlers. A fleet of them offshore. All, beasts and man, sharing the same bounty from the ocean.
The one dead Minke Whale pictured (you can see the diagnostic white band on the pectoral fin) was close in shore. We saw three dead whales in that ten mile stretch. It may have died AND THEN become wrapped in pot lines, it MAY have been bycatch from the super trawler nets. I don’t know and neither do you; but three dead whales in such a small area is GREAT CAUSE FOR CONCERN. We should be sharing the oceans NOT EXPLOITING THEM!



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